Meredith had enough adoptees around her growing up that adoption was no big deal. Yet, her parents never felt comfortable actually discussing adoption. After getting pregnant, and spurred on by her mother-in-law’s intuition that Meredith wanted answers, she started searching. When her social worker found her biological parents, they were married with children. Her reunion has filled her with mixed emotions because she’s thankful for the life she’s led but’s she’s seen the family photos for the life that could have been.
In the beginning. I, I didn't set boundaries for myself, for the relationship with them, for, I didn't give myself time to feel anything. I think I was, you know, adoptees are people pleasers and that's what I was being. And I was so concerned about what everyone else was feeling. And I don't, I didn't recognize what I was going through. And I think maybe that's why I struggle a little bit more now with my emotions.
Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? This is who am I really a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. I'm Damon Davis and on today's show is Meredith. She called me from Northern Virginia, but her story takes place up North in a small town in Massachusetts. There, she felt loved and adoption was no big deal growing up because there were adoptees around her and life was good. Her reunion happened quickly, but it was transformative for her when she learned her biological parents were together and her adopted parents felt betrayed. This is Meredith's journey. Meredith grew up in a quaint little town in Western Massachusetts. She said she doesn't remember even being told, but she always knew she was adopted. She also had an older sister, also adopted, but unrelated to herself, coincidentally Meredith's childhood best friend who lived right across the street was also an adoptee. So
It just felt very normal to me. And then actually the day that I was adopted, I was adopted a month after I was born. Uh, we celebrate that as my special day. And, um, my mom always would make cupcakes for the class at school. Um, so it was kind of like a second birthday for me.
That is so cool
Yeah. And we still, you know, she'll send me a special day card every year, which I still get. So yeah, it's always just been something that made me feel unique.
Both sisters got birthday and special day celebrations and the girls were made to feel cherished and loved Meredith said she always had questions about adoption, but when she was younger, sometimes she would get a little pushback from her mother when she broached the topic. So she usually didn't
It didn't, I didn't start to really think about it more until I was like in high school. And I don't know if it was partly my curiosity too, but a lot of people would ask me questions, which I think maybe sparked like me wanting to know more too. Does that make sense?
Something that you haven't really Thought about, but as other people think about it more and more, it definitely invades your own mind. Right?
Right. But honestly, when I was in high school, like I didn't even know where to start. I, I, wasn't still in contact with the other adoptee friend that I had. So I didn't really have a community of people who understood it or even knew like how to help me.
Those were pre-internet days in the 1990s. So while she wanted to search for her relatives, Meredith didn't have any ways to do so easily. While in high school, she says she didn't talk about adoption much with others on any meaningful level until she got married. She discussed being adopted with her husband and her mother-in-law.
Cause she's just a very curious person. And she would ask me a lot of questions. And she's actually someone who helped me a lot in my search when I actually got answers.
Meredith thinks that part of the reason she didn't search sooner was a little bit of fear, a lack of a real support system. And just not even knowing where to start narrative has already said that she only casually discussed adoption with others. So I wondered what it was about her mother-in-law that made Meredith open up.
I think maybe because I knew that she genuinely cares about me and I think she saw that I wanted answers. And you know, sometimes you just need that little push that person to nudge you along and bring that out of you. And I feel like I knew that she would support any decision or outcome and she would be there for me.
So her curiosity, her curiosity and support, evoked a feeling of trust. Yeah. for sure, just after Meredith and her husband got engaged in 2008. They were back in Western Massachusetts for her bridal shower. Her future mother-in-law traveling with them. The group was at Meredith's mother's house. And since adoption was an open topic among them, they decided to have a look at her baby book, which had her adoption information easily accessible within it.
And we were just curious, and we were looking through adoption papers that my mom had just, um, non identifying information. And we noticed something on one of the papers. There was some whiteout and I had a friend with me there too. And so my mother in law and the friend noticed the whiteout and then they got kind of sparked my interest. You know, I've looked at these papers all my life. Why have I never questioned this whiteout? Um, so we start investigating and realized that there's a name under there. And we couldn't tell what the name was. It started with an E you know, we, we weren't sure
The friend and her mother-in-law were trying to figure out what the name under the whiteout could have been, but it was a covert operation and Meredith didn't want her mother to know they were analyzing her adoption records. The whole thing got her kind of freaked out. So they made copies of the documents and she let her curiosity subside for years, Meredith was thinking about having children. So the classic adoptee desire for health information was on her mind. But that piece of paper with redacted information also lingered in the recesses to. Additionally, her mother-in-law could really tell that she wanted answers. So she suggested they dig in to start a search and Meredith agreed. The documents she had gave a little bit of information about Meredith's birth parents. So they tried to triangulate for who the people could be, but there just wasn't enough to go on. Meredith contacted the adoption agency that did her adoption, which had transferred her records to the hospital where she was born.
So I called contacted the hospital where my file was. And basically they gave me the same thing. You know, it's a closed adoption. All we can give you is non identifying information. You need to send us a written document with a signature, just requesting the information. So that's what I did. And then I got a call back from them when they pulled my file. So she told me that in my file, there was a letter from my birth mom when I w that was written when I was one day old. And it basically said that if I ever made contact that she wanted to be contacted.
Yeah. So I guess technically that gives permission to open the file, but since it had been 30 years, she had to find her first and make sure that she still wanted to be contacted.
Yeah. But that must have been heartening for you to know that in the moment that she was making these decisions, she did want to know you again one day.
Yeah. Yeah. It was kinda crazy. And I was actually working full time at the, at the time. While, while I was getting the call phone calls and I just, I remember like sitting at my desk just like bawling my eyes out in the middle of the Workday. Um, just trying to like deal with this and then not being able to focus all day,
Oh my gosh, I can. So remember that feeling. So did they read you the letter over the, over the phone?
No. So she did send me the letter, which actually is funny because she told me when you get the letter, don't be alarmed because it's addressed to a different name, but that was your name at birth. And the name was Elaine. So it just confirms that the name that was whited out on that original document I had was Elaine. Cause we knew it started with an E.
wow. You were hot on the trail. That's really interesting.
Yeah. So, yeah, so I did get that letter. Um, it was handwritten, it was very emotional. Um, just explaining why they had to give me up and basically that she, she didn't know the future, you know, she hoped that her and at the time her boyfriend were, you know, would stay together, but she didn't know the future. And financially they, you know, they, they were just out of high school. They didn't live together. They didn't have a house, they didn't have real jobs. So, um, it was, it was basically based on, you know, just not feeling like they could provide a better life for me.
How did you identify with the name Elaine, when you finally read it?
Um, I mean, it's a little strange for me. I, I wrote a found out that it's actually my birth mother's middle name. So it's, it's very meaningful to me. I mean, she knew she was giving me up and so I don't know. I feel, I feel like it's, it's special and it means something to me, but obviously it's
Yeah. You grew up as Meredith.
Going to see, yeah. To see another name and have it actually be your former identity. It's very, it's, it's weird.
Yeah, it is.
So Meredith waited impatiently for the social worker to get back in contact with her while they attempted to locate her birth mother.
My mother in law actually kept pushing too. And you know, kept calling the social worker like, come on. Like we really need some answers. Cause at this point I was like, I've waited 30 years. I feel like I'm so close that like, I just need answers now. Yeah.
They learned that the notes in her adoption file showed that her parents called the adoption agencies several times after Meredith's birth to see how their baby was doing within a few months, just before Christmas, that year, the social worker called back with news.
Okay. So I get a phone call from the social worker saying I made contact because lo and behold, no one up North changes their phone number. They happen to have the same phone number. And um, she said, Oh, I need to tell you your birth mom married your birth dad. And they're still married today.
Wow. What did you think when you heard that?
I never in a million years thought that that would be the outcome. So then immediately I'm like, Oh my God, do they have kids.
They all agreed to exchange letters for a while, getting to know one another and sharing photographs, but not revealing any identifying information just yet. Meredith talked in general terms about her childhood and her life as an adult in her letters, her birth parents shared some general information too, including fact that they had kids, but they withheld information about their other children. Meredith's full-blood siblings, their kids didn't know their parents had an older child who had been placed in adoption.
Yeah. The letters were basically just, um, getting to know each other. The first initial letter that I received from them, I got two separate ones. So one was from my birth mom and one was from my birth dad. And the one from my birth dad was really emotional and just talked about how he felt and that, you know, he thought about me all these years and then my birth mom, she was a little more reserved and I don't kind of trying to just gauge, like, I think she was just nervous. Like, what did I want, why was it, what was I looking for? Did I want to, did I just want some medical questions answered or did I want our relationships? I think her sounded a little more cautious.
That's really fascinating too, because they're in the same house, presumably writing their letters around the same time. It's, it's interesting to sort of imagine that they didn't necessarily consult one another on the other's content, right? Yeah. Cause for her to have been more clinical in his to have been more emotional. Right. It's, that's a really interesting sort of juxtaposition for two people who remained together and are writing their letters around the same time to you.
After about three exchanges. They all agreed to share contact information, their Facebook pages and phone numbers. So just before Christmas, Meredith learns who her parents are. They write letters through January. Then
In February, I decided to go up North and meet them. So they actually live seven miles from where I grew up my entire life. Wow. They were right around the corner. Yes. Yes. So I went up there and met them. Um, um, I mean, I got so anxious and I was almost like numb. I just, my husband came with me and as we hit their road and we're driving down, I just remember like, like, Oh my God, maybe we should turn around. I don't know. I was so overwhelmed and nervous. And then we pulled in and I first met with my birth mom, birth dad and my brother and sister. And I just kind of sat on the couch and they, I don't even remember. I wish I had documented all like everything that was happening
So much in your mind. It's hard to both think about what you're thinking about and respond and listen to what it is they're telling you. It's crazy.
Yes. Well, and also I jumped all in. I didn't have any help. I wasn't seeing a therapist. Like I was like, Oh no, I'm doing this. And I'm going all in and I'm doing it by myself. Like I probably looking back would have slowed down a bit.
But why would you have slowed it down a little bit?
Um, I just feel like in the beginning, I, I didn't set boundaries for myself for the relationship with them, for, I didn't give myself time to feel anything. I think I was, you know, adoptees are people pleasers and that's what I was being. And I was so concerned about what everyone else was feeling. And I don't, I didn't recognize what I was going through. And I think maybe that's why I struggle a little bit more now with my emotions. Um, because in the beginning I just, I didn't have anyone to talk to who understood. I mean, my husband was great. My mother-in-law was great, but they're not adoptees and they can't understand it to the level that, that I'm feeling it. And I didn't know anyone else who went through this at the time. I didn't have a support group. I didn't really have any outlet to, to release anything.
Yeah. Anyone that could relate and relay back what they felt or sort of make sense of what you were feeling, right. Yeah.
You know, there's in the beginning, there's the honeymoon stage. And I definitely had that. I was like on cloud nine, I was ignoring everything in life except, you know, getting to know my birth parents and like, it just kind of overtook everything. And then, you know, we hit some bumps and it was just, there was some drama and I think I was just more concerned with everybody else than myself.
So tell me, what were you feeling that you, you wished you had given stronger consideration to?
Uh, I mean for our first meeting, I think I would have met just my birth mom and birth dad in the beginning because I met with the four of them and it was fine, but I almost felt I also met them at their house. So that was really hard for me. Um, I didn't know that it would be, but obviously I walk in and there's family photos on the wall and I looked at it as my other life, like the life that could have been. So, and I still feel that way when I go to their house, I'm very uncomfortable just emotionally. I mean, I, I want to be there and I want to be part of things, but it's also really hard for me, but I, I, so I probably would have met at a neutral place to not at their house. Um,
And just with the parents, not, not your siblings yet.
Yeah. Cause I also felt, um, I didn't know how the siblings felt about the whole situation. And so part of me felt like I couldn't get emotional because I, I didn't, I didn't want to hurt someone's feelings. So I hold back. Yeah. And I did, honestly, I didn't cry the whole time I, there, I, I waited until I left. Um,
Did you burst out after you like got out of their house into the car kind of thing?
Yeah. Yeah. The whole way home and then the whole weekend. And that's all I could think about. I couldn't sleep. Yeah. It was. And I still kind of feel like I'm like that a little bit when I go visit. And um, I mean, I don't live close to them now, so the distance keeps things okay. But then when I go up to visit, I feel like it brings out emotions that I am forced to deal with. And then it takes me a while to get back on track after leaving them.
I can imagine. Have they been down here to see you and have you felt the same angst or is it different?
It's different when they're here. They have been my birth mom and dad came alone together. Um, one time and then my birth mom came before with my gram and my brother and sister. And my sister has been here on her own a couple of times. And actually my birthday is next month and my birth mom and dad are coming and this will be the first birthday that they spend with me since obviously the day I was born.
Oh my gosh. That's amazing.
Yeah. So I'm excited, but I'm a little bit nervous because my birthday always brings up weird emotions and they're going to be here, staying in my house with me. So I'm a little bit nervous, but it's definitely better being here at my house, like in my territory.
Right. Because that's not the home in which your life could have been. This is your home, as it has developed from the life you were, you have. Meredith mentioned, they were some bumps in the road after the honeymoon was over. One issue was navigating her younger sister's emotions. She was only 16 when Meredith emerged and started to get to know their mother. And I'm sure you can imagine that was tough for a teen girl to reconcile as she works to establish her own identity. We talked a little bit about how it was to reunite with her siblings.
A lot of my, um, trying to make sure everyone was okay was, you know, because I knew that she was handling this in her own way and I, in no way wanted to be that person who came in and stole her mom away. That wasn't my intention and I don't live up there. So I don't see them a lot, but everything was new and exciting in the beginning. So, you know, all these emotions are coming out and everybody's reacting a different way. Yeah. So a lot of the drama was just dealing with trying to now fit into the, their new family dynamic and that, and then having my sibling and mostly my little sister, uh, just have her own feelings about it.
Meredith told me her siblings, weren't planning to go to her house for her birthday. Her brother lives with his fiance and has his own life going on. Her sister is in school and working. So the trip was going to be hard for either of them.
I think it's, it's good that way too though. Cause I feel like I can build my relationship with each person on a different level when I'm one-on-one with them.
Thinking back on her reunion trip North Meredith agreed. She took on a lot as we often do in reunion, but it was actually rougher than she initially led on
The same day actually that I met the family. Um, I met aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins.
Oh wow. So you really jumped in the deep end. Like you didn't know it, right?
No, no. I just remember sitting on the couch and people rotated and just came and sat next to me and would ask me questions and then the next person that would come. So yeah. It was kind of like a revolving door,
Yeah, you were almost on display. Yeah, man. That's a lot of pressure for that first meeting. That is a lie.
Yeah. Yeah. It was crazy. And it was, it was too much looking back now
Earlier Meredith told us that her parents really celebrated her life, but when it came to actually talking about adoption, they weren't interested. Of course that's a real irony that I imagined made it hard to share her search with them. Meredith said she didn't share her search with her parents until she got confirmation that there was a letter in her file when the time came, she sought the privacy of the stairwell at work and called them,
Basically told them, you know, that I'm I want you to know, you know, I've always been curious. I started really looking and this is what I found. There's a letter in my file and they're going to try and find my birth mom. And they did not really. I mean, I, I was on the phone so I couldn't see their reaction. Um, but the reaction on the phone was kind of silence and okay. You know, not no emotion,
Mmhm in the absence of emotion. It could be probably perceived as chilly.
Yeah. I took it as, okay. They're not happy about it, but I'm a grown adult. I need to do what I need to do and I don't want to hurt their feelings, but this is something bigger than that. And I don't know, I felt like I had already come this far and I wasn't going to stop because they were uncomfortable. Um, so yeah, that is probably one of my biggest struggles right now, um, is that I can't talk to them about it and I, they don't ask about it. I don't know what for sure it is. If they're just uncomfortable or I know back then in the eighties, they didn't get the counseling. Like what happens when your child starts asking you questions or wants answers? They didn't get that kind of training. So I know that they don't know how to deal with it, but at the same time they had to thought that one day I might start wondering and ask questions.
Yeah. Right. But you know, as with so many other situations in our lives, not adoption related, you know, until it comes up, people sort of force things to the back and, and choose not to deal with them.
Yeah. Which is kind of, I feel like still happening. So while I'm living my daily life, and this is a huge part of my life, now they know they know what's going on. They know, you know, I've, I've obviously talked about it. They know that we've met. They just, they're not overly active and they don't ask about it. They don't ask how I'm feeling. I don't know that they know the extent of how it affects me.
Yeah. I would. I would imagine that they don't, if you're not asking someone how they feel, you're not going to get a straight answer as to how they're feeling. Right. Right. I'm wondering about how your relationship with them is in general then, because this is a huge part of your life. Like literally your life. And if, if you're not talking about this major thing that's happening, that really is, you know, impactful to them, too as their child, like how was the rest of your relationship with them?
Uh it's for sure. It's definitely different. I mean, I still would say I'm close with them, but I feel like without them being a part of this, sorry, I just feel like I'm missing something. They're my parents. Yeah. Like they're the people that I want the most to understand this and to not be able to talk to them about it kills me every single day.
Yeah. Do you feel like you have the strength to tell them that?
I feel like I've tried. Um, I did one time when they came. Um, so now I, I go to a support group that I since found after all this, but, um, I was able to convince my dad to come to a meeting with me and a social worker and he somehow got my mom to come. Wow. And, um, I wrote them a letter basically. And I read the letter at the meeting because I didn't know how else to say everything. I wanted to say. I don't know. I still, I walked away from that still feeling like, like they're taking it personally. What did you say in your letter? Um, I mean, I explained why I wanted to search and you know, it has nothing to do with them. It's, they're still my parents, regardless that I, that's never going to change and it's not like I'm younger and I'm going to go move back there and, you know, go be with my family. It's I'm not changing anything in my life and it's just added people to love. And that should be a positive thing. And I think they wanted to protect me because they were scared of what I would find, but okay. We now see that there's this whole great family and it's not, it doesn't have to be a bad thing. And now I have a child and I want my child to be a part of this and have that much more family.
I don't know. I just, I tried to explain it. I mean, I have full blood siblings, like who can say that they came out of this with a whole family. Right? Like who would not want to know that.
Yeah, that's exactly right. And I can't help, but sympathize with your feeling of wanting your child to be comfortable in this whole situation as well, because you don't want to be in a situation where you're out with your adopted parents and you know, your child brings up your natural parents and you feel this complete unease for like, Oh my gosh, did they just hear that? And what are they thinking? Right. You want everybody to feel some level of comfort for the fact that these other people exist.
Right. And because they live so close, when I go up to visit my parents, I always stay with my parents, but I always go visit my birth family. And that's just how it's going to be now. I mean,
Oh yeah. Cause they're up there. Seven miles away.
Yes. And actually my sister would talk about, you know, if we would be talking about it at the table and then my mom would come by and she'd start whispering. And I'm like, no, no, this is not a secret. We're talking about it. And if she chooses to leave the room, then she chooses to not listen, but I'm not, I'm not going to live a double life. For a while I was very respectful and I chose what I talked about and what I posted online. I'm not doing that anymore because it's not a secret. I feel like I need to be able to talk about it. It's therapeutic for me to, to explain my feelings. And it's not a secret.
Yeah. That's exactly right. Because it's your life. Right. And there's nothing to hide. You know, you, weren't part of any of the decision making that went into any of this stuff.
Exactly. That's my biggest thing. I had no choice in any of this. Why can't I talk about it? It's fine.
That's great. Like I'm ready to talk about all of the decisions that all of the rest of you made and it's not fair to not be open to that discussion. Meredith admits she's nervous about her birth parents visiting on her birthday, her husband, who knows his wife pretty well asked her to pause and think about whether she really wanted to have them over. He wasn't resisting, just making sure she remembered how emotional she used to get on her birthday before she even knew them. But Meredith recognizes this as an opportunity for herself.
I don't know. Part of me feels like, yeah, why not? Let's try it. Yeah,
Yeah, yeah. I mean, you, you know what, you're never getting, gonna get another first birthday with them in reunion and you know, this is going to be something that happens at your house, in your hometown and a place where you're comfortable amongst your support with your husband. Presumably you will have gone, you know, to the support group to say, look, this thing is coming up for me. And I, I need to talk to y'all about how you think I can cope. And hopefully we'll be prepared by the time it comes to at least manage it. Okay. Right. Yeah.
I mean, I, I think I'll be okay. I mean, I'm generally an emotional person anyway, so I'm, I'm sure at least one full get emotional through the weekend, but, um, nothing that I you know, I've already been through so much, so what's another.
Yeah. And I mean, like I said, this is a milestone and you know, it's going to be, it's going to be memorable, whether it goes, you know, awesome or not according to plan. So just go into it with an open mind and, and, you know, hopefully everything will be just fine. Yeah. Well, I certainly hope your adoptive parents come around. Um, cause it sounds like they are really, really important to you and you know, not having their support openly is, is going to continue to be a problem. So I hope that they, you know, find it within themselves to accept that you are their daughter. Um, and that, you know, this is, this shouldn't be a reflection on them as parents.
Right. I mean, in the end they got the best deal. Right. They got to, they got to watch me grow up and I dont know, that's pretty important. And that's what my parents are to me. You know, they raised me. So
I wondered how Meredith sister also an adoptee felt about her reunion. She said they didn't talk about it much. And she sensed some envy from her sibling.
Well I just tried to explain to her that, you know, while it might seem happy and great, it comes with a lot of emotions and not every story is going to turn out that way. And I certainly didn't think that that's how mine would turn out. Um, I think she's more curious now, but we don't really talk about,
Do you wish you could talk about it with her? I mean, she's a fellow adoptee, right?
Yeah, of course I do. I don't know why there's a hesitation to talk about it with her. I don't know. Honestly, I think now, Oh, for me, you know, I struggle a lot, but um, I'm very choosy who I share that with. Whereas, you know, growing up for the first 30 years, I didn't think much about it. You know, a woman had me and couldn't take care of me and I ended up with the great life anyway. So it's all good. And you know, they were wondering, did we make the right choice? And then now that they saw, okay, we made the right choice. Everything's good. It's flipped for me though. Now I feel like I'm dealing with things that I didn't even know existed.
Yeah. Yeah. It's funny. What a Pandora's box ends up opening. When you go down this path emotions, you didn't know, you could have or present situations, you could not have predicted our reality. It's really unbelievable.
Wow. Well Meredith, thank you so much for sharing your journey. I mean, you've, you've come a long way and you've still got a ways to go, especially with your adoptive parents, but I think it's going to be really cool for you to spend your first birthday together with your birth parents. And I really wish you luck. I hope it goes well. Will you write me an email and let me know how it turns out?
Yeah, yeah, for sure. Actually my birth mom and I are gonna do this, um, jewelry class together and I told the woman about our story and she's going to write like a blog post about it.
So that's awesome.
Yeah. So it should be fun. I'm excited, but also nervous, but that'll be good.
It'll be good in an activity together. Yeah.
All right. Take care. Happy early birthday.
You're welcome. Meredith, take care of great talking to you all the best. Bye bye.
Hey, it's me. It's crazy. How reunion can mix up your mind? The way Meredith described at the end, she sounds really thankful for her life with her family, but reunion has introduced her to her married parents and her full blood siblings while challenging her adoptive parents, acceptance of her deep seated need for answers. I reached out to Meredith to hear how her birthday turned out with her birth parents. She said my birth parents did make it down here to visit the trip .overall was great for the first time since we met, it felt really natural being together. I don't know if it's because we were in my own territory, so I was more comfortable or if it's just getting easier to be together, I did get emotional a few times over the weekend.
As I had expected, I might, we were able to have a few heart to heart discussions talking about our feelings, which I think helped me a lot. Overall, It was a really special weekend and I'm happy. They were able to share their first real birthday. Me all these years later, I'm Damon Davis and I hope you'll find something in Meredith's journey that inspires you, validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn who am I really, if you would like to share your adoption journey and your attempt to connect with your biological family, please visit whoamIreallypodcast.com/share. You can choose to share your whole story, maintain some privacy about parts of your story or share completely anonymously. You can also find this show at facebook.com/waireally, or you can follow me on Twitter at Waireally. And please, if you like to show, you can subscribe to who am I really on? Apple podcasts, Google play tune in radio, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. And while you're there, take a moment to share a rating or leave a comment. Those ratings can help others to find the podcast too.